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There are other cities that possess a comparable crackle and fizz, a similar quotient of what Martin Amis once referred to as ‘italics in the air’. New York, naturally. Tokyo. London on a good night. Sydney. São Paulo. But nowhere else on earth does confusion, complication and contrariness quite like Shanghai. Here is a place that is neither completely Chinese nor wholly Western; where foreign-ness has been courted, embraced, shunned and then courted and embraced again; where unobstructed expansion and unpredictable change are the only constants. These qualities are quite thrillingly visible to the naked eye. The best vantage point from which to take them in is this hotel, at the northernmost end of the Bund, directly across the Huangpu River from the dense forest of skyscrapers that has lately popped up in Pudong. Any room in particular? No – practically all have excellent views. Otherwise Sir Elly’s rooftop terrace bar is perfect, especially in the evening. With its understated opulence – muted silks and vivid Art Deco flourishes – the hotel mirrors the hybrid aesthetic of the city itself, cosmopolitan, polyglot, at once nostalgic and contemporary. Shanghai may not have looked so good or felt so energised since its first period of explosive growth in the 1920s. And nowhere else allows you to savour its beauties and ironies in such fine style as the Pen. It embodies much of what made this beguiling, elusive, maddening city great – and still does. By Steve King
Hotel Le Germain is located in the heart of Quebec City’s Old Port and offers elegance, comfort and refinement. The boutique hotel reveals its history through the old days charm kept from the two heritage buildings which it is made from. The attention to detail is the golden rule; whether through the free cappuccino bar, goose down duvets, warm woodwork, luxurious bath products or royal welcome reserved for your dog. The guest rooms have a hushed atmosphere and a view over the St. Lawrence River and surrounding neighborhood.
This year, 27 of the top 100 hotels in the world are in Asia — the most of any region. They include an atmospheric hotel with a restored Qing dynasty courtyard in the city of Chengdu, China (the Temple House); two honeymooners’ havens in the Maldives (Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa and Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru), and an immaculate, palatial resort overlooking the Taj Mahal in Agra, India (Oberoi Amarvilas). “Uninterrupted views of the Taj Mahal give this hotel its own iconic status,” said one reader, while another raved: “The stuff of legends.”
The Indian ethos that the guest is god rings true of many grand hotels in the country, yet the Oberoi likes to put its own spin on things. Rising like a great gilded cake from the western shores of Lake Pichola, magnificent Udaivilas is just the spot to wash up after a dusty Rajasthan road trip. This particular pleasure palace is a relatively recent arrival but, like the 18th-century mansions it overlooks, it was built to showcase the craftsmanship of the Rajput era: marble-carved lotus ponds; glittering thikri mosaics; delicate miniatures painted on pale gold walls hand-plastered with lime, crushed marble, egg white and tamarind. The spectacular Candle Room contains a dome set with thousands of pieces of mirrored glass. Udaipur’s busy market streets are only a few miles away, but Udaivilas has the luxury of space: 30 acres of what used to be the Maharana of Mewar’s hunting estate, with bird-filled grounds and views of the pretty lake and its floating mansions. All this grandeur could feel cold and overwhelming if it weren’t for the excellent staff. Guests are greeted off the motor boat by doormen with great twirling moustaches and within minutes everyone knows your name. Small, personal interventions include gifts of a metal-wrought tea light or beaded bag, say, left in your room alongside a handwritten note. In the most romantic city in India, this is the most spectacular place to stay. By Pippa de Bruyn
The chic accommodations at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto reflect the charm of its Yorkville backdrop. The property's rooms and suites – designed with elegant decor and modern amenities like an in-room iPad to access Four Seasons services and bathrooms equipped with deep soaking tubs and TVs – hold views of the downtown neighborhood's surrounding shops and cafes. Despite the abundance of nearby restaurants, guests suggest enjoying a meal on premises; both Café Boulud and d|bar lounge offer French-inspired menus from Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud. Serenity-seekers rave about the spacious, sleek setting in the spa, which comes outfitted with an indoor pool, a steam room, a salon and a long list of treatment options.
A good place to get one’s bearings when visiting Quebec City is the Citadelle of Quebec. It is only a short walk from most of the Old City hotels. Originally conceived by French colonists, and constructed by British forces, the fort has the perfect, and near impenetrable, defensive position atop the plateau. It has served to restrict entry to the important St. Lawrence River and formed the centrepiece of the town’s defensive structures. These include a circling stone wall which survives to this day, making Quebec City the only remaining walled city in the US or Canada. Despite being an active military installation, and an official residence of both the governor general of Canada, and the Canadian monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II), tours of the site are available throughout the year. The citadel, along with the historic district of Old Quebec, is a designated World Heritage Site.
Situated at the base of Camelback Mountain on the fringes of Phoenix, this offshoot of The Phoenician offers spectacular views at every turn. The Canyon Suites accommodations are decorated in warm desert tones and outfitted with terraces, marble bathrooms with a separate tub and shower, and either golf course or pool views. Plus, guests receive exclusive perks by staying in the Canyon Suites, including access to a private infinity-edge pool, complimentary breakfast, chauffeur service and free bike rentals. The Canyon Suites at The Phoenician claims the No. 1 Best Hotel in Phoenix honor for 2017. (Courtesy of The Canyon Suites at The Phoenician)
The main draw of Las Vegas is its world-renowned Strip, so it's hardly surprising that the No. 1 Best Hotel in Las Vegas is perfectly positioned along this iconic thoroughfare. Featuring brand signatures like impeccable customer service and a Forbes Five Star-awarded spa and restaurant, this Mandarin Oriental outpost lures luxury-seeking travelers. Guest rooms and suites start at 505 square feet and come equipped with dark wood or mother-of-pearl headboards, walk-in closets and large windows that overlook the city. (Courtesy of Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas)
Dubbed 'Le nouveau St Tropez' by Vogue Paris, Montauk's rise from fishing village and low-key surf perch to Manhattan's most fashionable summer spot has been meteoric. For those who lack that crucial friend with a beach house, Ruschmeyer's is the next best option. Styled as a summer camp for adults, it's part souped-up motel, part restaurant, part dance party. The rooms are comfortable if basic, with wicker headboards, hammocks and shower rooms. Which is just fine, because they'll barely be used. Instead, hit the rollicking restaurant which is overseen by the people behind SoHo locavore favourite The Smile; make new chums over ping-pong in the Magic Garden; and get down at the Electric Eel club, which has DJs at weekends and a raucous bingo night on Thursdays. Breakfast is DIY and included in the price (love the smashed avocado on rye). Alternatively, borrow a bike and cycle 10 minutes to Ditch Plains Beach for quesadillas from the Ditch Witch food truck, or join the line of hipsters for burritos at Joni's in town. And while in the East Coast's premier surf spot, it would be churlish not to at least attempt to ride a wave: Ruschmeyer's will provide a board and lessons.
Nestled in Québec City's Old Port, the Auberge Saint-Antoine complements the quaint Petit-Champlain district with elegant decor featuring European artifacts and modern accents. Additional touches, such as minibars, coffee machines, and bathrooms equipped with heated floors and no-fog mirrors earn an extra nod of approval, but recent guests particularly applaud this Relais & Châteaux property's warm and courteous hotel staff. After strolling along Québec City's cobbled streets, you can cozy up at Chez Muffy, an intimate dining room that stuns with gorgeous St. Lawrence River views and an eclectic assortment of seasonal French-Canadian dishes. For lighter fare, grab a table at Bar Artefact, which dishes up small dishes like poutine and grilled cheese. You can also take advantage of the hotel's unique amenities, such as the private movie screening room and LeGYM fitness center and private spa treatment rooms, which all receive high marks from previous visitors.
The No. 2 Best Hotel in New York City exudes a serene, elegant ambiance, further enhanced by its calming gold and cream color scheme. Perched on the Upper East Side, just a few blocks from Fifth Avenue's sleek storefronts, The Lowell New York provides travelers with easy access to iconic city sights and stores. The boutique property also impresses visitors with its impeccably decorated rooms and spacious marble bathrooms, its attentive staff and afternoon tea. (Courtesy of The Lowell New York)
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'If we want things to stay as they are,' Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa famously wrote, 'things will have to change.' Anyone who knows and loves The Carlyle will want things at this Upper East Side institution to stay as they are, while also understanding that a certain amount of tweaking is, alas, necessary. Designer Tony Chi, who did such a fine job at The Carlyle’s sister property, Rosewood London, is currently overhauling 80 percent of the hotel’s 190 rooms. The first of these will become available in early 2019. Renovations here have always been a fraught business, not least because, as well as being a hotel, it also contains 50 or so privately owned apartments spread across its 35 floors, making it impossible to do the whole place up all at once. Thus some rooms are florid and chintzy; some are 1920s time capsules; some are slick and steely; and still others are something in between. Broadly speaking, they get better the higher the floor. Plus, you get to spend more time in the elevators —not an activity to enjoy in everyday life, but this is not everyday life. The ones at The Carlyle are the stuff of legend, as much admired as the astounding Dorothy Draper lobby or Bemelmans Bar. Imagine if you had been there when Princess Diana, Michael Jackson, and Steve Jobs all piled in (true story). You would have been in awe. Not of them, of course, but of the real superstar – the unflappable, icy-calm, white-gloved Carlyle elevator operator. By Steve King